PHOENIX -- Two strong practices by Amare Stoudemire have
Phoenix Suns coach Mike D'Antoni feeling optimistic about his big
forward heading into Tuesday night's season opener against the
Lakers in Los Angeles.
"I think that's the nature of an injury to be up and down,"
D'Antoni said Monday. "It's just when you're potentially one of
the better players in the league you get a lot of attention when
you have an off day. It's 'Oh, he can't do it.'
"I'm sure there's a lot of people hoping he can't do it, but
I'm thinking he can. He looked good the last couple of days."
Stoudemire pronounced himself ready for the opener.
"I feel great," he said Monday. "Today was another great day,
it was better than yesterday, so tomorrow I should feel even
Stoudemire will come off the bench to start the season, with
D'Antoni expecting to play him 15 to 20 minutes a game.
"Whatever coach D'Antoni has in mind, I'm definitely down for
it," Stoudemire said. "It's up to him. Once on the court, I'm
going to play to the best of my ability."
Stoudemire was an All-Star in 2004-05, and a dominant force in
the Suns' Western Conference finals series against San Antonio. But
Stoudemire missed all of last season, except for an aborted
three-game comeback, because of microfracture surgery on his left
knee. He later underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to
address wear and tear that occurred during his rehabilitation.
That has led to an uneven recovery, with recurring pain sending
him to the sidelines from time to time. Each setback is closely
watched and Stoudemire has grown weary of the scrutiny.
"It is tough," he said. "Any small thing and the world finds
out about it and it begins to become a big thing, but it's not that
serious. We're doing a great job of maintaining my strength, and
we're going to have some good days and bad days."
Steve Nash has noted that the offense has changed over the past
two years, but Stoudemire said that adjustment is no big deal.
"It's a little different," he said. "It's just that I haven't
played in a year. It's not really hard to fit into this offense.
It's not hard at all. It's just that I haven't played in a full
year, so it's just a little rust."